The fifth-ranked Ferrer defeated second-ranked Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-2 in the other semifinal. Nadal, who won the tournament the past two years, was nursing a sore shoulder and never seriously challenged his fellow Spaniard.
Nadal said his shoulder "felt OK, not perfect" since injuring it in November, but he still planned to play at the season-opening ATP tournament in Doha next week. Nadal announced Thursday that after the Australian Open, he'll rest his shoulder for several weeks in February.
"I knew before coming here that I was not ready to win a match against David Ferrer, not to win a match against Djokovic or Federer," Nadal said. "But I am ready to spend hours on court without risk of injury. That is the most important thing. I need this transition, hours of practice. If I am here, I will probably have a better feeling for Doha."
Djokovic showed plenty of the dominant play that helped him win three Grand Slam titles and amass a 70-6 record last season.
The 24-year-old Serb twice broke No. 3 Federer in the first set and ran off nine games in a row in a one-sided affair that lasted only 44 minutes.
"It is the perfect start to season. I played great," Djokovic said. "It's something that makes me very happy."
Djokovic said fans shouldn't read too much into his win over Federer, against whom he had a 4-1 record in 2011, including victories at the Australian Open and U.S. Open.
Djokovic attributed his win in Abu Dhabi to having a match under his belt -- a win over Gael Monfils on Thursday -- and a quick start that gave him momentum and prompted Federer to make several unforced errors.
"He has won over 15 matches at the end of 2011, so I'm sure he won't feel down after this loss here," Djokovic said. "His main goal here is to get a couple of matches under his belt, as it is for all of us."
Federer apologized to the crowd for disappointing them with his quick exit and promised to play better Saturday when faces Nadal for third place.
He said he felt "good overall" and "was moving well," but that he just was unable to chase down Djokovic's groundstrokes that repeatedly caught the corners.
"It's surprising when it goes quick and you are on the losing side. It's not so comfortable sometimes," Federer said.
He called Djokovic a good front-runner.
"You try hard and try different things and it's not working. He was playing really well," Federer said. "Unfortunately, it was a short-lived match but we know he is a very good front-runner. He took the lead in both sets quite early and that made it difficult because conditions were pretty quick and my game was not good enough today to make it more competitive."
Ferrer took a 4-0 lead against Nadal in their first set, helped by his powerful forehand and some poor serving by his opponent. Nadal got back to 5-3, but Ferrer clinched the first set when Nadal returned a serve into the net.
Ferrer started fast again in the second set, taking a 4-0 lead and going on to win the match in 70 minutes when Nadal hit long.
The six-man tournament is a warm-up for the 2012 ATP season that begins next week. The winner receives $250,000.